Original URL: http://www.dailystar.com/dailystar/metro/12733.php

Jim Crow laws endure
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
3.06.2004
Ernesto Portillo Jr.

"It ain't over till it's over," someone semi-famous once said. It was a sporting reference but it could apply, as well, to our segregationist Jim Crow laws.
 
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, outlawing segregated schools. People have come to believe the monumental ruling eliminated the laws that kept segregated schools alive.
 
But 50 years later, Jim Crow laws remain on the books in some states, with far-reaching effects, according to a unique University of Arizona study.
 
At least eight southern states have Jim Crow laws that continue to influence educational policy.
 
"Although some of these statutes are apparently defunct, others reflect governmental promotion of racial separation which has continuing effects even now, including the allocation of taxpayer funds in the service of segregation," according to the Jim Crow Study Group. The group is working under the Law, Criminal Justice and Security Program at the university's James E. Rogers College of Law and School of Public Administration and Policy.
 
Made up of professors and students, the group undertook the study in recognition of the importance of the Brown decision, which is rightly trumpeted as the undoing of American apartheid.
 
UA law professor Gabriel J. Chin wondered what laws remained out there. And what he and his colleagues found surprised them.
 
In Louisiana, a law still guarantees a public teacher's salary if that teacher chooses not to follow a desegregation order. Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina have laws that allow the closing of integrated public schools.
 
In Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia, laws allow the payment of tuition for students who wish to attend segregated private schools.
 
In Alabama, Georgia and Virginia, private school teachers may join state pension programs for public school teachers, making it easier for public school teachers to flee if they object to integration.
 
Alabama's constitution allows parents to send their children to segregated private schools with public funds.
 
While few of these onerous laws are in play today, the fact that they remain on the books sends powerful messages, creating ripples across the country, said Chin, co-director of the study group.
 
What the study shows is that in the push to resist desegregation, public support for public schools weakened. Public monies and resources were used to establish private segregated schools, said Chin.
 
Roger Hartley, the other co-director, said the study is important in other ways, even for Arizona and other states with no Jim Crow laws.
 
The study also sounds a warning that the move toward more charter schools and school vouchers has the potential to increase segregation, Chin said.
 
For Rona Nichols, a second-year law student who worked on the study, the endurance of Jim Crow laws reminds her of the racial tension she encountered while attending a South Carolina college. She is white and her close friends were black.
 
Striking all Jim Crow laws can help heal the wound of segregation, the study's authors concluded.
 
It ain't over till they're over.

Ernesto Portillo Jr.'s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Reach him at 573-4242 or at netopjr@azstarnet.com. He appears on "Arizona Illustrated," KUAT-TV Channel 6, at 6:30 p.m. and midnight Fridays.

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